Making your bearded dragon happy isn't hard. This docile, fairly friendly reptile requires good care and attention. A happy, healthy beardie can share your life for a decade or more. It's important to find a veterinarian specializing in exotics. Like other pets, your beardie should have an annual examination. Going to the vet might not make him happy, but good health matters for his long-term well-being.
Bearded dragons (Pogona vitticeps) hail from the dry, arid regions of Australia. In his native habitat, he spends a good deal of time basking in the sun. In captivity, your pet benefits from time spent in an outdoor enclosure during good weather. This gives him an opportunity to soak up natural sunlight and move about freely. The enclosure's floor space should be at least 8 feet, 2 inches which can accommodate up to three adult beardies. Place wire mesh over the top to keep predators out. Provide a shaded area so your pet can get out of the sun.
Home, Sweet Home
Unless you live in a hot, dry climate, your beardie will require an indoor home. Provide your pet with a terrarium or aquarium of at least 55 gallons, although a larger tank is preferable. The tank also requires screening on top. Newspaper or outdoor carpeting makes a good substrate -- beardies will eat substrates made of small particles, so they're out. Furnish your beardie's home with branches for perching and rocks to hide beneath. He'll also enjoy sharing his digs with tough plants like aloe and palm. Your beardie needs fluorescent, full spectrum lighting about 1 foot above the cage, along with another incandescent bulb placed above a branch in the cage for basking.
Beardies don't do well in high humidity, but they do require water. Provide your bearded dragon with a dish large enough to bathe in. You'll have to change the water daily. Because he'll probably poop in the dish, disinfect it with bleach at least once a week. He can also benefit from gentle misting with water a couple of time a week.
Your bearded dragon likes to explore. Let him wander about a beardie-proofed room while under your supervision. Before letting him loose, get him used to regular handling. It's a good idea to wear surgical gloves when handling your beardie, since he has sharp nails. There's also the possibility that your beardie has salmonella, which he could pass to you. The more you handle your bearded dragon, the more likely he is to relax and enjoy the time spent with you.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.